A new kind of collision between regional alliances is becoming the new life-or-death matter in the Arab world. And Egypt’s military is again in the heart of the complex and perplexing puzzle
The Independent Voices
As Egypt celebrates its national day – Revolution Day – its military is, once again, in the midst of determining the destiny of the Arab world.
Since its foundation in the 19th century, Egypt’s military has been the bellwether of Arab political thinking and trends. From protecting the monarchical thrones and resisting the British and French hegemony, to restoring secularism by putting an end to the Muslim Brotherhood rule, Egypt’s military is still the substratum of the Arab political identity.
In 1952, the free officers movement, under the leadership of the impulsive colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, forced the departure of the British forces, and laid the foundations for the military rule trend in the Arab world. Nasser was the father of Arab nationalism, which created the long-lasting pivots of the Arab balance of power until Iraq’s invasion in 2003. Despite its decimation by upheavals and sweeping ideological shifts, Nasserism is still deeply rooted within Egypt’s military ranks.
Throughout the Middle East’s modern history, Egypt’s army has always been the Arab world’s point man in every tumultuous period. At the time where Arab monarchies were stumbling like tottering towers, creating a deep sense of uncertainty and despair, Egypt’s military had the answer. It produced the secular ideological glue, which maintained order in the Arab regional sphere and created a new bipolar loyalties system, shared between the US and the Soviet Union.
After the Arab humiliating defeat at the Six-Day War with Israel in 1967, all eyes turned again to Egypt’s military. It was not until the 1973 victory over Israel that the Arab people’s hope was restored. Had Nasser died in 1970, the military officer, and then new president, Anwar Sadat, led a daring and sharp turn away from Moscow towards the west. The move cornered the soviet’s influence in the Middle East, and paved the way to the then inconceivably difficult peace with Israel.